Described in 1989, this is still a species that is little known about.
It is only found in sand between rocks in the salt spray zone of South Africa’s northwest coast (near Port Nolloth).
The leaves are trigonous*, placed in four rows (=tetrastichum) and often with a black cover, probably caused by a fungus.
As the flowering time is not mentioned in the literature, it may be of interest to know that the photos below were made in late August and early September.
* trigonous = three-angled in cross-section
This low-growing shrublet has creeping, rarely rooting branches and leaves 8-14 mm long and about 3 mm wide and thick, with small, rough papillae.
In September the plants are covered with pink flowers on conspicuously hairy stalks; the petals are to 13 mm long.
The species occurs in the Calvinia-Clanwilliam area.
Four of the six species belonging to the section Columnares of Crassula are more or less well known (barklyi, congesta, pyramidalis and -of course- columnaris).
One other (C. multiceps) I have never even seen and the subject of this post is not widely known either.
It is a small, more or less erect plant, 8-25 cm tall when in flower, sometimes with several short branches at the base. The green to brown leaves are normally all about the same length (usually 5-8 mm but sometimes to 1.5 cm). They often covered with sand particles.
In September-November, the main stem bears many small rounded inflorescences on the upper part of the flower stalk.
The plants occur from Vanrhynsdorp to Calvinia, Worcester and Montagu on sandy or gravelly slopes (often facing south).
This species occurs in the western Karoo from Matjiesfontein to near Calvinia and is closely related to E. loricata and E. multifolia. (Peter Bruyns in “Plants of the Greater Cape Floristic Region”, published in 2013, even considers it a synonym of E. loricata).
The plants form rounded cushions to about 15 cm tall and to 30 cm or more in diameter, with many branches, which usually completely hide the main stem.
The 2-5 cm long white spines, which are in fact modified peduncles, are very obvious in the dry season; in winter and spring they are partly hidden by the up to 4 cm long leaves.
Plants belonging to this subspecies occur fairly widespread in northeast Uganda and northwest Kenya in sandy rocky soils, usually in the open at altitudes between 1075 and 1850 m.
They have a thick fleshy root with densely tufted, more or less round branches, which are 5-8 mm thick and erect to 15 cm tall or creeping to 50 (-100) cm long.
The branches bear tubercles to 2 cm apart in 4 series, with triangular spine shields 6 x 1.5 mm in size and spines 5-15 mm long; they differ considerably in colouring, from bright green often with darker longitudinal stripes to greyish-green with purplish stripes.